News & Views

The new normal: marketing & communications in a time of social distancing

by Julianna Richter
20th March 2020
The new normal: marketing & communications in a time of social distancing, post image

As COVID-19 impacts business globally, Waypoint Partners will be sharing a series of insights and perspectives on critical areas to help guide and inform business priorities, actions and decision-making.  Our piece below focuses on the ‘New normal: marketing and communications in a time of social distancing.’

Whether you work in-house, at an agency or as a consultant, you likely have already seen several marketing and communications programs (and their budgets) impacted. Company priorities and attentions are changing daily, requiring marketers to shift resources and develop back-up plans that can, if needed, be halted or changed.  This is challenging on several levels given that brands and companies can’t afford to stop engaging their audiences in the coming months.  And if this feels like things are anything but normal, that’s because they aren’t…but there are things marketers can do to stay close to their audiences in this time of social distancing.

Pressure test upcoming plans and programs

If you haven’t already, conduct a thorough assessment of marketing plans and communications programs that need to be ‘reimagined’ in a world of social distancing.  Consider ways to move IRL activations to virtual events, and where you may need to leverage new technologies to execute them.  If the program was planned well in advance of the COVID-19 outbreak, pressure test whether the original approach, messaging and focus is still relevant, especially considering that businesses are now being forced to close, the market is in free-fall and many employees are increasingly concerned for their jobs. As we’ve advised clients in the last week, if it feels like the rationale or messaging is off, it’s better to change the focus or approach…or to postpone than to proceed as planned.

Consider ways to create value and visibility

In addition to pressure-testing upcoming marketing and communications programs, this is a chance to consider proactive ideas for how companies and brands can engage their audiences in safe, helpful and much-needed ways.  Several companies are becoming “helpers” through their products and services by making them widely available for free or at low costs (a shout out to all the audio-visual and tech firms helping businesses, students and teachers stay connected while at home).  Others are making their company workforce available to provide expertise, counsel and guidance on specific business issues and challenges, and some companies with a larger footprint are offering physical spaces to support local communities. The common theme across the companies and brands doing this best is they are using their company resources to address growing needs and to provide value and visibility in ways that have a real impact.

Create content that helps people connect

With many people working for home for the foreseeable future (not to mention those simultaneously trying to keep family members focused and fed) content has taken on a new meaning.  There is a growing appetite for content that helps to update, educate, entertain and connect with others especially at a time that is very stressful.  There is no shortage of beautiful and smart branded content but it’s important that it is timely and relevant, and that it serves a purpose given the current situation.

Key things to consider are:

  • The types of content that will inform, educate, entertain and connect people throughout this period.
  • The tone and focus of communications to ensure it’s not coming across as “tone-deaf” during this time.
  • Innovative ways to deliver content to people who are already isolated at home (especially opportunities for “live” engagement through live streaming, podcasts, workshops and webex).
  • Emerging needs within the community or customer base that the content can help to address.
  • How companies can communicate and engage remotely for a sustained period of time (which has implications from a technology, staffing, creative, production and financial standpoint).

The need for planning and reprioritizing marketing and communications will continue as the situation unfolds across the U.S., and getting in front of this will help to preserve programs while engaging your audiences in ways they need during this unprecedented time.  We will continue to share strategic insights and guidance to inform your business plans and priorities as this evolves. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have a specific need, or if we can be of help in any way.

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